New round of North-South Korea talks on Kaesong begin

July 14, 2013 at 10:58 PM
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PYONGYANG, North Korea, July 14 (UPI) -- North and South Korea Monday began a new round of talks on reopening their joint Kaesong industrial park after earlier negotiations failed to produce agreement.

Their working-level talks resumed in North Korea's border city of Kaesong, where the park complex is located. The previous round last week ended after the two sides couldn't agree on steps to resume operations at the idled complex but said they would try again Monday.

The 10-year-old Kaesong facility, the only economic link between the two Koreas, with 123 South Korean firms participating, was shuttered in early April after North Korea, maintaining its belligerent posture, unilaterally pulled its 53,000 workers and banned the entry of South Korean representatives and supplies into the complex. The complex was set up following a 2000 summit between then-South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and then-North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

The South Korean Ministry of Unification, which deals with inter-Korean affairs, said Monday's talks began just after 10: a.m. with representatives from the two sides explaining their positions for normalizing operations at the facility, Yonhap News reported.

South Korea has been insisting the talks focus on internationally accepted safeguards so the complex can be kept running without being affected by political and other non-economic developments. South Korea wants the North to take responsibility for the current impasse and seeks changes to rules relating to communications, passage and customs inspections governing the industrial park.

Yonhap quoted Seoul experts as saying it may be difficult for the communist country to admit responsibility for the closure of the factory park. They said unless the North accepts the South's calls, the talks may drag on.

North Korea, which apparently wants an immediate resumption of operations, had blamed Seoul for the failure to reach agreement lat week. Its official media said: "The insincerity on the part of South Korean officials caused the talks to make no progress."

Yonhap said the North also has accused the South of fueling tensions on the Korean Peninsula by holding military drills with the United States.

Yonhap said in other developments Monday, 159 South Korean businessmen representing textiles and stuffed goods firms along with 52 support personnel from utility companies and officials from the Kaesong Industrial District Management Committee also crossed the inter-Korean border to check on their facilities and bring back finished goods and other production materials.

The Kaesong complex produced more than $450 million worth of goods last year and North Korean workers at the facility earned millions of dollars in wages.

Tensions have heightened on the Korean Peninsula since North Korea, in violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution, conducted its third nuclear test in February and a long-range rocket launch last December.

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